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'Patchy' E-Prescriptions Put Patient Safety 'At Risk'

Bespoke Electronic Prescription Service Found To Cause Confusion Between Doctors And Patients


A new study published today in the PLOS ONE journal has found the "patchy" implementation of electronic prescriptions is putting patient safety at risk.

Researchers from a number of higher education institutions, including University College London (UCL), took part in trials that set out to understand how hospitals around the UK used online or electronic prescription services.

Of the 101 medical facilities that took part in the UCL-led research project, 69 per cent had some form of electronic prescribing in place, but wide variations in systems used meant that only certain clinical areas could use them.

One of the biggest issues found was that some had started to use commercially created platforms, while others had developed their own proprietary systems and this, on occasion, was found to have caused confusion among doctors and patients.

Professor Bryony Franklin, one of the members of the UCL research team at its School of Pharmacy, said: "Within the UK, most prescribing by GPs is done using a computer. In stark contrast to many other developed countries, prescribing for hospital inpatients is generally based on pen and paper.

"The level of variation in the use of electronic prescribing between hospital departments and the diversity of the systems in place presents a potential threat to patient safety in the form of medication errors."

Coalition government ministers have repeatedly expressed their desire to overhaul problematic or broken technology that pervades parts of the UK's health service.

But previous attempts by the Labour government to implement new solutions in the field were unsuccessful and were ultimately described by critics as a waste of money, with billions of pounds spent on failed projects.

One of the government's flagship schemes is the Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards programme, which made £250 million available to trusts around the country that want to invest in paperless cloud systems.

Funds allocated to this project were increased to £500 million in September 2013 because of high demand.

Expert Opinion
The findings that using a wide range of electronic prescription methods is putting patients at risk is a very worrying situation indeed.

“Having a paperless cloud system would mean everyone operates using the same method which would hopefully limit the amount of prescription errors made.

“We have seen cases where mistakes are made with medication along with incorrect prescriptions which can lead to further health problems.

“For a patient to be given the wrong dose or even the wrong medication could present further health issues or even have catastrophic and in some cases fatal affects. This is all highly unacceptable and we welcome any news that pushes this investment forward”.
Mandy Luckman, Partner